Why is Pollinator Conservation Needed?
Animal and insect pollinators are essential to pollination in over 75% of the world’s flowering plants, which includes roughly 35 percent of the world’s crops. Animal and insect pollinators include bees, moths, flies, bats, birds, ants, butterflies, wasps and beetles. Some of these pollinator species have declined in numbers, become endangered or even gone extinct due to the loss of natural food supplies and habitat. As a result, pollinator conservation was made an important part of the 2008 Farm Bill. This bill provides support for research and makes pollinator habitat conservation a priority for land managers and conservationists.
The 2014 Farm Bill includes amendments that provide continued support for the pollinator protection provisions and directs the USDA to encourage farmers to protect pollinator habitat as part of voluntary conservation plans. These changes will benefit both managed pollinators such as honey bees as well as wild pollinator species across the U.S.
Honey Bee Pollination
Honey bees don’t just produce wax and honey – they are extremely valuable pollinators of many agricultural crops. Honey bees are not native to the U.S. – they originally came from Europe and were brought over by early colonists. The list of crops that are pollinated by honey bees is endless – fruits, berries, nuts, clovers, alfalfa, canola, squash, melons, peppers and many more. Alfalfa is an important forage crop in the U.S. Honey bee colonies have long been managed by beekeepers to provide pollination services for crops as well as for honey production.
Native Bee Pollination
According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, there are over 4000 species of native bees in the U.S. alone. Bees are the most predominant pollinators of flowering plants in nature, thus contributing a vital service to the ecosystem. Because of this important role, bees are referred to as “keystone organisms”.
Native Bee Conservation
There was a time when native bees and wild honey bees performed all of a farmer’s pollination needs because of the presence of natural areas nearby. These natural areas provided nesting sites, food and protection for the bees. Because of the way agricultural landscapes are developed today, there is often a lack of native bee habitat and forage near farms. Techniques to encourage native bees to live in your area are simple to implement. These can be done on a farm or in a home garden.
Pollinators and Their Conservation: References and Links for More Information
We have compiled a list of valuable resources and links relative to pollinators and their conservation.